Friday, 16 November 2018

All Those Explosions were Someone Else's Fault by James Alan Gardner

A romp through my old stomping grounds.  Okay, maybe a parallel romp since there doesn't seem to be magic in my world, but there is the University of Waterloo and it's neighbourhoods.  Author James Alan Gardner has set his book in an area he knows well, though he's tweaked it a bit and added some rather cool stuff.

Kim, her three roommates and one boyfriend are at the University of Waterloo (UW) on a stealth mission.  When Kim spies six darklings entering a lab, her curiosity is aroused. Shortly afterwards an explosion ripples through campus and the four women go to investigate.  They enter the devastated lab and become encircled/invaded by something that effects changes in themselves.  They are transformed to sparks, essentially the good or light ones who counter the darklings.  Did I mention the campus police?

This sets the four off on a series of adventures while they seek to understand what has happened to them.

There is so much wonderful stuff that happens in this book that I can't even begin to explain. I can tell you that this was a lot of fun to read and experience.  It was discussed at my book club, and we all enjoyed it and most of us plan to read the next instalment.  We couldn't put any labels on this book as it's most unique in plot. Yes, there is dark and light but there is a lot of fuzzy as well.  Suspend disbelief and just go with the story line and enjoy.

I loved that this book is set in a location that I am very familiar with.  I attended UW some years ago and it was great to re-visit sites that I have a variety of memories of.


Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Anyone's Game : Cross Ups #2 by Sylv Chiang

Wow, this was great.

Jaden and Cali have been friends for years and during that time have played uncountable Cross Ups games.  Now that she is living in Montreal with her dad, they can only get together during their online gaming.  Jaden has noticed that Cali has been off her game lately but doesn't know what's bothering her, maybe it's just the physical distance between them.  When he is invited to play in a tournament in Montreal, he figures he'll have a great time with her.

The online community presents a social challenge.  You can't really know the person on the other end of the connection.  This is very true in the gaming world where children can compete equally against adult players.  Both of the friends are learning that this is not always a healthy environment.

Bullying and sexist attitudes are main topics in this book.  I feel that they are handled quite well and most suitably for pre-teen readers.

While this is the second book in the series, you can read it without having read the first book.  There is a lot of gamer talk, but it does not overwhelm the storyline nor preclude non-gamers from enjoying the story.

I received a review copy of this book from Annick Press in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth

Many authors have written the stories of the adventures children have when they pass to another, a more magical world.  Author Laura Weymouth has told the story of what happens after the children return to their own world.  siblings Jamie, Philippa and Evelyn all have different feeling about their time spent in the Woodlands.  Not one of them is left unchanged by their years long experience.

Their stories are told from two viewpoints; first by Evelyn and then by older sister Philippa.  I found the first part to be slower and harder to enjoy. She was really struggling and not in a good frame of mind.   Evelyn was so young when their adventure began, and grew into an adult while in the Woodlands.  During those formative years she formed bonds with the residents there that she could never break loose of.

I was very moved by Philippa's dedication to her sister.  There was nothing she wouldn't do for Evelyn to keep her happy and safe.  It's been a long time since a work of fiction had me crying for characters chapter after chapter.

This book should appeal to older teens as well as adult readers.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, 5 November 2018

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Yumeko has lived her life in the Silent Winds Temple with only the monks as family and teachers.  She knows very little of the outside world.  When the temple comes under violent attack she vows to follow the wishes of her master and deliver an ancient scroll to a hidden and seemingly mythical temple in a distant part of the county.

As she begins her trek, she meets up with Kage Tatsumi who agrees to escort her.  Unknown to Yumeko, Kage is not truly a samurai, rather a demon slayer intent on obtaining the very same scroll for his own clan.

Yumeko has secrets of her own.  She has simple fox magic as she is half kitsume and half human. Most handy in those unexpected situations that tend to occur with her.

These two make most interesting travel companions.  They both seek the same goal, though for very different reasons.  Both reaching the conclusion that for now it is better if they work together while keeping their secrets hidden.  I am eager to see if they can keep their detachment from each other.

Author Julie Kagawa is a master at world building.  She has incorporated enough real world similarities to make me accept this new world.  I particularly like the kitsune and other spirits.  I felt safe and comfortable with these non-human characters.

Please write quickly Ms. Kagawa, I'm eager to read Soul of the Sword, Part 2 of Shadow of the Fox.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Saturday, 3 November 2018

A Blade so Black by L. L. Mckinney

This story imagines the possible ripple effects of Alice's long ago trip(s) to Wonderland.

Modern day Alice is distraught by the sudden death of her beloved father.  She flees from the hospital and soon finds herself lost and in a dark foreboding alley.  When a terrifying dog/beast attacks her, she is saved by a mysterious person.  Addison Hatta is surprised to find that Alice can see him.  Thus begins a strange and fantastical tale.

I didn't really enjoy much of  this book.  It seemed as though it was written by two different authors.  For the first 2/3 the author tried too hard to push the Wonderland theme and the writing style suffered.  The next third, where the Wonderland theme was left to take care of itself, the plot took centre stage and drove the story really well.  While a few story lines were drawn closed, the author left me hanging on more, making me wish for the next book in this new series.

A good showing for a debut author, it will be curious and curiouser to see where the next rabbit's hole takes her.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Thursday, 1 November 2018

Between a Highlander and a Hard Place by Mary Wine

A brawny highlander in a kilt comes to the rescue of a young woman without considering the consequences. He acted from his heart not his head.  What is he going to do with a woman, obviously a respectable one, out in the Scottish wilds.  Darn himself and his honourable ways. Now he'll have to go out of his way to return her to her family.

I was hooked from that point, or actually, from the point I read he was wearing a kilt.

The young lady is Athena Trapps, an English woman who is trying to escape a nobleman who didn't turn out to be the gentleman she thought he was.  Every move she makes seems to open up a new patch of trouble for her and for her rescuer. Can she take a chance and trust Symon Grant; is he as good a man as he appears to be.

The story is set a time when relations between Scotland and England were tense and neither trusted the other an inch.  In classic romance fashion, love is stronger than bitter distrust.  Kind of swoon worthy for me. Each time author Mary Wine describes Symon as wearing a kilt, or donning his kilt, I'm in love with him again.  Sure it's a whimsy thing, but a man in a kilt......

I loved this book and would gladly read more in this genre from Ms. Wine.

Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win another title by Mary Wine.

Also by Mary Wine:

Highland Hellcat

Rafflecopter: a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received and advance reader copy of this book from Source Books in exchange for honest review.


Friday, 12 October 2018

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Title details for The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - Wait listReferences to this book kept coming up and for the life of me, I couldn't recall a thing about the story.  Mind you, it's been about forty years since I read it during high school.  When I told friends I was going to read it again, several told me not to waste my time or not to bother with such an old book.  It was written in 1925.  I pressed on regardless of their comments.
As I listened to the audio book I started to wonder how this book had such staying power.  The opening chapters were rather boring.  Now whether this was the causal reading by the narrator or it was too long drawn of an intro, I can't say.  Once Daisy was introduced, my interest started to pick up and by the time Jay Gatsby appeared, I was into the tale.
I still won't say it was an amazing book, but I am glad I re-read it.  It is a tale that plays out time and again.  Love is never a straight path and even if you can get what you think you want, it's not always what you need.  An then there are the crazy rich people, who just have no concept of reality.  They live their indolent lives with no notice nor concern for the wreckage they leave behind them.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Last Pick by Jason Walz

This is my idea of the perfect graphic novel.  A solid plot line, kick ass main characters, and awesome drawings that support the story.

Twins Sam and Wyatt have been on their own since the alien invaders abducted their parents three years earlier.  Sam does what she can to obstruct the alien plans and to help the remaining humans.  Those left include people too old, too young or too disabled to be of use.  Has Wyatt's otherness saved him, will Sam evade the aliens as they return for more humans.

I enjoyed the closeness of Wyatt and Sam.  They totally have each others backs, but they still squabble and disagree.  I was caught up in the story and disappointed when I reached the last page.  The story continues in Last pick: Born to Run.

I received and advanced reader copy of this book from First Second Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Baby Don't Worry [official video] - Sam Krüger

My nephew Sam's first official video


Tuesday, 11 September 2018

the Bad Guys in Alien VS Bad Guys #6 by Aaron Blabey

My first venture into this young reader series.  It was funny and the humour  totally appropriate to a 7-10 year old.

The bad guys, who don't really seem all that bad, are stuck on an alien ship.  Escape is going to be difficult.  If they can stick together, they might all get out of it.  Friendship plays and important part of this story.

I would happily recommend this series for any young reader.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Midnight Reynolds and the Agency of Spectral Protection by Catherine Holt

Midnight and Tabitha are a team.  Even though they are only twelve, for the past six months they have been working with the Agency of Spectral Protection, ASP, to release trapped spectral energy.  After witnessing a spectacular robbery, ASP requests the two to investigate the situation.  They soon realize that this case is far beyond what was covered in their training.    They forge ahead none the less.

This is a fun middle school story.  It involves two friends who are trying to stay under the radar at school and home when they are carrying out work for ASP.  Both use different approaches to keeping life and work separated and now they have added dating into the ix.  Midnight and Tabitha appear quite different, they they understand each other and work together well.  They have turned their differences into assets. Did I mention the vikings and ray gun.

I enjoyed this story, but wish I had read Midnight Reynolds and the Spectral Transformer, the first book in the series, before hand.

I received and advanced reader copy of this book from Albert Whitman and Company and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Thursday, 28 June 2018

The Sky Over Lima by Juan Gomez Barcena

Set in Peru at the turn of the twentieth century, this is the fictionalized account of a love affair via letter.  Spanish poet Juan Ramon Jimenez had fallen in love with Georgina, a young woman in Lima who wrote to him begging for a copy of his recent book of poetry that had not yet been published in her country.  They subsequently carried on a correspondence for a few years during which he fell in love with her. 

Unknown to Juan, it was actually two young men who collaborated to compose and send the letters of Georgina.  It had started out innocently, as they did seek a copy of his book.  For what ever reason, they continued with the ruse until it threatened to be exposed.

It was fascinating to read how the author proposed the reasons for why Jose and Carlos continued with this fakery.  It felt so real, that it was possible it truly did occur in that manner.  Some letters have survived the ravages of time and obviously led the author to create this captivating story.  The rest, pure speculation...

I loved this book.  It is a unique tale made even more appealing by it's historical accuracies.  Jose and Carlos are young men at odds with the futures their fathers have decided for them.  Instead, they fancy themselves to be poets, even though they are not published and it seemed they weren't destined to be.  They both came from a life of privilege that allowed them the time to indulge in such whimsy as this.  I wonder if they regretted their activity afterwards and if they ever tried to make amends for their actions.

This is a highly readable tale which effectively transported me to another time and lifestyle.


Monday, 4 June 2018

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

I loved this book.  Once I started reading I couldn't put it down.

High school is often the place where you forge new friendships.  Some will be passing and others will last a lifetime.  And then there will be the ones that change your life, forever.

Just one year earlier, Bee, Whitley, Martha, Cannon, Kipling and Jim had been friends in high school.  Jim was now dead and Bee hadn't seen the others since going away to college.  She suspects that the remaining four friends know more about Jim's death than they are letting one.  She need to know the truth so she can move on with her life, in fact, her life depends on her learning the truth.

How well can you truly know another person.  We all have secrets that we are unwilling to share.  Some are embarrassing and others might be criminal, but they are our secrets to tell or not.  What if you are keeping a secret to spare anther person from pain or anguish, does that make it all right.  Bee has her own secrets and she is determined to find out those of her former friends no matter what.

This tale spins out in a totally unique manner that I could not have imagined.  I am still pondering how I would have handled these events. Would I have been like Martha and taken an academic approach or a more hedonistic one similar to Whitley.

I am being cryptic as I don't want to give away anything.  There are so many varied actions that the characters take that I loved and hated them at different points.  It makes me wonder why the truth can be so hard to tell.

If you enjoyed Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz, you'll love Neverworld Wake.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Stitch'n Time : How to Know when you've Found the Right Project

How do you know when you've hit on the right project for your self.  Some projects seem to drag on for ever and you find your self willing to do anything else, even house cleaning instead of working on 'the project'.  Other times, you will let the rest of the world pass by while you stitch away,  This dotty blanket is of the second type  I am so excited about watching it grow that I am easily able to ignore even a rumbly tummy to knit another block.

This photo shows how to start and inner block.  All the stitches are picked up from the previous blocks.

Most patterns will tell you to finish the first row across, one block of each colour/pattern, then start the second row.  Visually, it seems to take so very long to finish a row.  I decided I would stitch the diagonal rows instead.  Two more green blocks and then I'll start on the light blue squares.  These squares go very quickly as they are only about 5 inches a side.

I was watching Netflix while stitching and accidentally binged on a show.  oops.  I don't do that as a rule, but I was getting carried away one morning.  I guess that will just skew my statistics a wee bit.  oh wait, that's a good thing.

As I knit, I have been working in as many ends as possible.  I am thinking that with the little dots, it will be hand to pull the end threw on a needle.  I can't recall having worked with such a bumpy yarn before.  It is fun though.

The weather here has been hot. Too hot to comfortable sit outside or do anything in the yard.  I have cranked on the AC and have been lurking inside, sometimes reading and others stitching.  I hope that the weather in your area is behaving and no unseasonal storms.  If you have been managing to stitch, Mister Linky is waiting below.  I'd also love to see any afghans/blankets that you stitched and loved, so add previous links to those posts.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

I loved this.  I could not put it down.  With themes of cos-play, Dungeon's and Dragons role playing and creating the perfect character garment, there is lots to love.

Cameron, her twin brother Cooper and family have recently moved and are settling into a new town.  She needs to be working on her clothing portfolio for her college interviews, though she is lacking inspiration.  Trips to the comic store are dis-spiriting due to the 'anti-female' vibes that Brody, the manager, exudes.  When her father suggests she use his D&D book as a beginning point to create characters, it starts her along a bumpy and twisted path to  discovering her creativity and other things.

I loved everything about this book except that it ended too soon.  The relationships between Cameron and Cooper is tight yet not perfect.  They fully support each other but at the  same time won't let the other drown in self pity.

When Cameron is working on a garment/costume, she is totally immersed.  The description of her working was so vivid that I could imagine the shimmering fabrics and flying pins and needles.

This book should have wide appeal among teen and older readers.  You don't have to be involved in cos-play or D&D to enjoy this story.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Friday, 25 May 2018

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Wonderful story of adventure and exploration.  Readers will travel  with Aru and Mini as they try to save the world from the destruction that the Sleeper seeks.  Along the way they will encounter an assortment of Indian deities, visit mythological destinations and learn about the power of friendship.

Aru was tired of being the social outcast at her exclusive school.  When three of her classmates visit the museum where she lives, they catch her up in a lie.  Not wanting this to be spread around school, she accepts a dare to light the cursed Lamp of Bharata.  Oops, that was the one thing her mother told her she must never do.  She has now unleashed a deadly force into the worlds.

I enjoyed following Aru and Mini on their adventure.  Boo made for an interesting, though reluctant  guide.  Young readers will also enjoy Boo, especially considering that he is a magical pigeon.  Author Roshani Chokshi does a good job of introducing the myriad of Indian gods to readers.  She gives enough information to follow the story line, but also alludes to a much more detailed story behind each one.

I feel that this novel will appeal most to the younger middle school reader.  Would also work well as a classroom read aloud to accompany a cultural study of India.


Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Stitch'n Time: Keeping it Fun

As you might imagine, it's been an interesting week with a new puppy in the house.  Even though all responsibility for him is supposed to fall to my youngest child, the owner, I can't possibly ignore him.  I find myself petting him and going with them on walks.  He is lovely to be around.  Today he even allowed me to puppy sit  him.

He has passed the yarn test.  He watched me knitting and didn't try to snag a ball from me.  Perhaps that's more a kitten/cat thing.  Time will tell.

A year or two ago, I purchased a box of this discontinued dotted yarn, Bernat Dippity Dots.  I chose 3 balls of each colour except the black.  Enough to make at least 2 if not 3 baby blankies.

As I was lamenting not having some stitching at hand, I recalled this box and that I had printed out the patterns I wanted to do.  Real easy to get started from that point.

Each of the squares knits up to about 5 inches on a side.  As you can see from the first photo, subsequent blocks are formed by picking up stitches from the previous block.  No sewing together individual blocks at the end of knitting.

The first three blocks are completed and looking great.  They seem to square up once the neighbouring block is added.  The final blankie will by 7 x 7 blocks.

This is the type of yarn that you don't want to be ripping out.  I did un-knit one block as I didn't like the way it turned out. I don't plan to do that again.  I could have left it, but it would have bugged me for ever and any knitter looking at the blanket would have noticed the mistake immediately.  The new colour was added on the wrong side, which meant that the wrong colour loops showed on the front side.   With that fixed and notes added on how to avoid this in the future, I am stitching forward.

For the past year, I have been telling myself that I have to finish languishing projects before I am allowed to start big new ones.  That is like punishing myself.  Stitching is supposed to be fun for me.  There is probably a reason that a project is hidden away unfinished.  I might even get back to it in the future.  But right now, I wanted and needed something new.  Who knows, when I find that next bag with an unfinished project lurking inside, it might have morphed into something that I want to work on once again.

Do you have an unfinished project hidden away.  Do you hope that one day you will open the bag and it will magically be completed or that it will have transformed its self into a work of art.  Please share your thoughts about it in the comments or link to a post you've written about it.

Mister Linky is waiting below.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

FuryBorn: The Empirium Trilogy Book 1 by Claire legrand

Rielle has a huge secret, that with the help of her father, she has tried to keep hidden.  When Prince Audric's life is threatened, she'll do anything to save the man she loves, even reveal her secret.

A thousand years later, Eliana has her own secret.  One that is to her advantage considering she works as an assassin for hire.  Eliana only knows of Rielle from the stories/legends her young brother Remy collects.  Mostly she dismisses them as one would dismiss fairy tales.  When a job goes wrong and she is forced to switch alliances, Eliana finds herself reconsidering the validity of these tales.

This story spans a thousand years and is alternately told from Rielle's and Eliana's perspective.  Other than their unusual powers, there appears to be little to link the two women.  One a queen and the other a paid assassin, what could they have in common other  than a love for their country.

Unfortunately, this book didn't work for me.  I couldn't identify with either young woman.  They remained strangers to me.  I didn't feel as though I had learned any of the intimate things that a friend or confident would know.  I didn't really care about either of them.  I struggled to finish the final chapters even though they were exciting and contained dramatic plot developments.

spoiler:  the biggest detractor of the book was the inclusion of angels.  They are a type of character I don't enjoy and prefer not to read about.  If the author had included some other race of being it would have increased my enjoyment.

I received an advance reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Friday, 18 May 2018

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X R. Pan

Leigh is just seventeen when her mother kills herself.  She takes it very hard and tries to understand why she did it.  It also leaves so very many questions about her mother's past un-answered.

Soon after her mother's death, a large red bird appears and speaks to Leigh.  She is convinced that her mother has become that bird.  At the seeming urges of the bird, Leigh and her father travel to Taiwan to meet her maternal grand parents.  She hopes that while there she can find the bird and unravel her mother's secrets.

While I did enjoy following Leigh on her quest, I found that the first  two thirds of the book were somewhat lethargic.  It must have been similar to how her mother felt during her depressed times.  After that point, the pace of the story picked up and became more clear.  I couldn't put the book down for the final third.

Leigh is an interesting teen.  She associates colour with all emotions and events.  It isn't made clear whether this is a medical condition called synesthesia or that she is further expressing her artistic flair.  It does enhance the story by considering the events as particular colours.

We also meet Axel, Leigh's long time BFF.  The day they crossed the friend line and kissed is the same day that her mother died.  Leigh has to deal with the guilt she feels over choosing to spend time with Axel instead of caring for her mother.

Other than the events surrounding the magical bird, much of what Leigh, and Axel by extension, have to deal with is realistic.  Teens don't live in a bubble that isolates them from life's pressures.  They have romance angst, home life dynamics as well as their futures to consider.  If it takes a little magic to deal with all this , then I salute author Emily X. R. Pan for doing it so well.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Stitch'n Time - a slight diversion

 I know that my track record doesn't speak for its self, but I have been trying to get my needlework posts ready before noon.  Often my problem is that I enjoy sleeping late; I get my best sleep at that time.  Today I actually have a pretty good reason for being so very late.

His name is Randy.  It was an epic road trip of about 15 hours to pick him up.  My youngest wanted a dog for company when studying for their Masters.

He is a standard poodle and is gorgeous.

For those of you who did stitching this week instead of making puppy plans (he's 5 months old), Mister Linky is waiting below:

Saturday, 12 May 2018

The Ice Chips and the Magical Rink by Roy MacGregor and Kerry MacGregor

Great start to a new hockey series aimed at readers who are relatively new to chapter books.

The Ice Chips is a co-ed hockey team that is loosing their home rink.  Though they will be moving to a fancy new rink, they want one last skate on their home ice.  Once they arrive at the rink, they see that the ice is in bad shape, it needs re-surfacing.  This is when the trouble/challenges/magic starts. 

Wait, did I say magic.  Oh yes, that's what makes this book so special.  I love where this magic takes them and what they experience and learn along the way.  Not going to tell you a word more since I don't want to spoil any secrets.

It's great the way the team members support each other both on and off the ice.  They aren't just thinking about their next goal, but of their friends both old and new. 

Young readers will be able to relate to the members of the team even if they don't play hockey.  The story is more about friendship and including new friends.

The authors also wrote the Screech Owl series for 9-12 readers.
The team will return in the Ice Chips and the Haunted Hurricane.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Stitch'n Time - Block Layout

 The weather has been gorgeous here this past week and it's made me want to be outside as much as possible.  I did manage to stay inside for a wee bit of sewing.  Last week I told you that I had mostly finished the blocks for my wall hanging and that I thought it was going to be a challenge to get them arranged.

Well, it was a surprise that I was happy with this first arrangement.  I wanted to match the dark rectangles and have a diagonal going with the large squares.  I had to shuffle which squares went on the outside edge, but other than that , it came together quite well.  Next step is to stitch the blocks together.

The blocks are about 8 inches, four blocks across and 5 down. I doubt that I'll add a border, just straight to the binding.
I had a little yarn left after knitting the bibs and once again came across a pattern from Red Heart that I liked called Snowdrop Mason Jar Cover.  You need to use five 6mm needles to accommodate the pattern.  Once knitted, you slip it over a wide mouth large mason jar and put a battery candle inside.  light will shine through the simple lace pattern.  I have another inch or two to go till decreasing for the bottom.

If I am happy with the results, I'd like to make some up as gifts for Christmas.  yes, I am already thinking ahead.  Next time I want to try using a long 6mm round needle so i don't have to fuss with so many needles.  Will see how this finishes first.

Any one else planning their Christmas projects at this time?  Do you like to make small projects or one or two big ones per year?

Stitch'n Time is a regular week post where I share details of my current needlework posts.  Feel free to link up below to your current or related needlework post.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

We'll All be Burnt in our Beds Some Night by Joel Thomas Tynes

If I spied Johnny Keough coming toward me along a dark street, I'd probably be tempted to cross to the other side.  He's had a tough life and isn't about to take crap from anyone.  As I was reading the opening chapters of this book, I questioned whether I would finish.  It's not the type of story I generally read.  I decided that I would push myself out of my comfort zone and keep reading.  I needed to know why this book was awarded the Governor General's prize in 2017.

Johnny is hard to like.  He talks tough and acts tough.  Inside, he does have a soft spot which is why he rescued an elderly couple from their burning home.  I kept reading and looking for him to change his life around.  He just couldn't do it for long.  It seemed that every time he was doing well, that life would extract a very stiff price, almost as a penalty. 

Author Joel Thomas Hynes slowly reveals nuggets of information regarding Johnny's past.  Most were events with fairly grim outcomes.  His best days always involved his dear cousin Mikey.  Unfortunately for Johnny, Mikey committed suicide weeks before the start of this novel.

As Johnny continued on his quest that was taking him across the country, his luck seemed on a downward spiral.  As he sunk lower, an assortment of well meaning people tried to help him, but he wouldn't/couldn't let them.  His past lead him to know that he couldn't trust people.  As unlikeable as Johnny was, I found that by the last few chapters, the tears were pouring down my cheeks and I felt an over whelming need to mourn for the lost possibilities of the life that Johnny could have lived if only some one had loved and cared for him.  I am so glad that I did continue reading.  It has made me question the lives of others and how little control they could have on the events that control their life.

Cover image courtesy HarperCollins Canada.


Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Stitch'n Time -

I feel good in that I managed to finish 16 of 20 blocks last week.  I have partially stitched the others, though I wanted to leave them at this point so I have some flexibility in their colour placement.  I have a few ideas of how to lay out these blocks.  I could focus on the largest segment and make them into a most pleasing arrangement.  I could also match the two green squares to make them appear as rectangles.

I'll take a photo of each as I play around and that will tell me which wins.  It's far too easy to over think this step an then never end up finishing the quilt.  That happened to me with a previous project that is still sitting at the block stage.  I've also heard from readers who were making the One Block Wonder and never could settle on the final placement of the blocks; they gave up.  Not going to happen here.  I'll set a deadline for finalizing placement, then I'll stitch them together.

Do you have one project where you spent way too much time on deciding on block/colour placement.  How did you finally make your decision?

Stitch'n Time is a regular weekly post where I share my current needlework projects.

Mister Linky is waiting below for a link to your current needlework post.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Stitch'n Time: Quilt Blocks for Broncos

I feel that I have broken my quilting impasse.  Last year most of my stitching was in the form of knitting or crochet.  Hardly any quilting.  I was missing it, but couldn't seem to get back in the groove.  Then came the Humboldt disaster. So many young lives along with coaches and more lost in one accident.

It wasn't long before a request for quilt blocks was posted.   It didn't take me long to sew up a few blocks.  I used the colours as suggested.  They are very easy.  I will get them in the mail in the next few days.

I haven't heard an update regarding donations, though there are plans for over 200 quilts and that will take a lot of blocks.  Still time to stitch and send them in.

After finishing those blocks, I wanted to make a wall hanging using a smaller version.  Since some left over strips of orange fabrics were lying on the table, I wanted to use them.  These blocks were cut with 5 1/2 inch and 3 inch pieces.  I'm planning to use 20 to make the hanging.

It's taking me a bit longer to sew as I am still learning about my new machine.  Each time I need to change a setting, I have to refer back to the manual.  The more sewing I do, the better I'll get at remembering the settings.  I'm looking forward to the machine quilting as that was the main reason for the new machine.

Stitch'n Time is a regular post where I share my stitching projects from the previous week.  You are invited to use Mister Linky below to add a link to your current needlework post.

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

Maddie, her husband Ellis and their best friend Hank are the most self indulged and indolent people.  They don't work and live only for the next party or entertainment.  When their poor behaviour at a society event causes embarrassment to Ellis's parents, the two men hatch a plan to flee the country and go in search of the Loch Ness monster.  Ellis's father tried to find the beast years earlier, and instead found scorn.  He thinks if he can find it he will restore his father's good name and be welcomed back home.

As I was listening to this audio book, I was disgusted by the three main characters.  They were not nice people and only sought to indulge them selves.  I had almost decided to give up on the book, though I recalled how much I loved Ms. Gruen's earlier book Water for Elephants, that I had to give it more of a chance.

Fortunately It wasn't long before I started to notice slight changes in Maddie's attitude. She paid more attention to the war raging around them and was concerned about the injured soldiers she was seeing.  It was this change that encouraged me to continue.

Once Maddie started to pay more attention to the real world around her, she began to question her position and her behaviour.  I liked the person she was becoming.  From that point on, I wanted to keep listening every chance I could.  I was cheering her on and wanted her to develop into a considerate and deserving person.

Author Sara Gruen did a great job with these three characters.  First she made me hate them, the really like one and grow to loath the other two even more.  A success when an author can make me feel such a range of emotions just by using words.


Saturday, 21 April 2018

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

When I picked up this book, I didn't realize how much I needed to read it.

I don't know anyone who wants to go back and relive their teenage years.  Sure, there may have been great moments, during high school, but in reflection, I wouldn't willingly do it all again.

Sixteen year old Simon has no choice.  He's a junior and still has a way to go before graduation.  he hasn't come out as gay and planned to keep it that way for a while yet.  When Martin, the class clown, finds out he black mails Simon into helping him get the girl of his dreams in exchange for keeping Simon's secret.

Such a horrible situation for Simon. Yet it also shows how desperate Martin is to feel liked.  Social dynamics in high school are far more complex than I remember.  I tried to red this with an eye to a teens perspective and how they don't have the decades of experience in dealing with relationships.  I think I was successful as I could feel his pain and wanted to help him out.  His friends also seemed to react in realistic ways.  They wanted to help Simon, but at the same time had to deal with their own dramas. 

This is an excellent book for both teens and adults.  A great conversation started.


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Stitch'in Time - A Change of Day

Sorry to be missing from Stitch'in Time for the past few weeks.  After moving to Mondays, I soon realized that wasn't going to work.  The beginning of the week always seems to be so busy and it was almost impossible to get a post ready.  Going to try Wednesdays and hope it goes better.

 Even though I haven't been visiting with you, I have been stitching up a storm.  Other then casting off, I have finished the stitching on this project.  I bought some blocking wires and am ready to move forward.

First, I wanted some pictures of the pre-blocked shapes.  It is very modern sculptural looking.  I love the odd bumps and bulges.
 My youngest is holding it up on the needles, the green will be at the bottom, in a circular form.  If it were dipped in some acrylic medium, I'm sure I could drape it into a wonderful free form sculpture.  However, I'm not going to do that as I want to see how it turns out after the 'vigorous blocking' that the pattern recommends.

The first row has 3 stitches and final row around six hundred.  It took me over 15 minutes for those last few.

Hope to get to the blocks soon.

 Once I had finished the above project, my fingers were still wanting to knit.  In my inbox I found a pattern from Red Heart for a cute and simple knit bib.  It is pattern LW6062 . A similar pattern is available for those who crochet.

I made the first one in Red Heart Super just to test it out.  Worked beautiful.  Then I purchased one skein of Red Heart Super Saver Stripes.  So far it has made 4 bibs and there is easily enough for at least one more large.

The pattern has three sizes, S 0-3 mths, M 3-6 mths, L 6-12 months.

These will be donated to MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) to be included in the craft tent sale at the quilt auction in New Hamburg near the end of May.  My quilt guild usually makes items for donation.  I didn't feel like sewing and instead thought knitting would be a good option.

 Small - Medium - Large
I love the way the colours progress in this yarn.  Actual knitting order  to show the colour progression was the Small and Medium in the top row, then the yellow one and finally the Large in the top row.

Definitely will have to use this yarn again.

Stitch'in Time is a regular Wednesday post where I share my various needle work projects.

Mister Linky is waiting below for you to add a link to your current needle work post.

Friday, 13 April 2018

School Ship Tobermory by Alexander McCall Smith

A fun, high seas adventure for the land lubber or middle school reader.

Ben and Fee MacTavish have led an unusual life with their marine scientist parents.  Spending time with them means travelling around in their submarine for weeks at a time.  When it is decided that they will attend boarding school, they enrol at the Tobermory, a huge sailing ship school.  Once on board, they meet students from around the world.

Within days of the start of the term a number of the students are asked to work as extras for a movie being filmed on another ship.  After a few days of filming, Ben realizes that something is not right and he becomes suspicious about the film crew.  Soon the students are caught up in an investigation that takes them far beyond their regular lessons.

This is a well told story that kept me eagerly turning pages.  Not only did I get to know an interesting group of students, but I finally learned the difference between port and starboard.  I could totally imagine enrolling in a school such as this.  It would be a dream come true.  This would be the ultimate escape from the classroom, even if the classroom came with you.

I particularly like that the students come from a wide variety of backgrounds.  Not only do they have to get along in the classroom, but their co-operation is fundamental in the proper running of the ship.  This book should have wide appeal to middle school readers.

Readers of this book might also enjoy: Max Tilt: Fire the Depths by  Peter Lerangis


Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Ice Wolves: Elementals 1 by Amie Kaufman

Twins Anders and Rayne have always been close, but more so after they were orphaned at the age of six.  Their bond is challenged when it is revealed that Rayne is a dragon elemental and she must flee the city which happens to be a wolf stronghold.  On that same day, Anders is disturbed to find himself transformed into a wolf, a sworn enemy of the dragons.  This leads him to question everything he thought he knew about his sister, even whether she actually is his sister.

While living on the streets, the two had formed a loose bond with some of the other street kids, but never became close enough to be considered friends.  For the first time he can remember, Anders has made friends with some of his classmates at the wolf academy.. He is closest to Lisabet the first young wolf to befriend him.   He questions whether he can trust her with Rayne`s  secret.  He is desperate to rescue her from the dangerous dragons, but can`t accomplish such a huge task without help. Can he trust Lisabet.

I love this book.  It is full of magical devices, dragons and wolves.  Wolves as young as twelve are entrusted with the safety of the community.  At the same time they are treated as school children who are expected to attend classes and study.  This is much at the target readers of this book; they think they are old enough to be considered adults but in the eyes of their parents they are still young children.

This adventure filled book should appeal to a wide range of middle school readers.  In some ways it reminded me of the first Harry Potter book with the students off to boarding school to lean how to deal with their new found talent.  The contrast of the dragons and wolves makes for interesting encounters.

I received and advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, 26 March 2018

Stitch'n Time : Finding my Mojo

I don't know if it's a result of the gorgeous spring weather, or the fact that March break is over, but I feel more relaxed and ready to go.

This weekend, I was able to finish up three pillows.  The binding is all done and lose threads clipped.  Either my mojo is well found, or perhaps it was the looming deadline for the quilt show they are to be exhibited at.  Does it really matter; they are done.

The sunflower pillow was from a workshop I took with Jennifer Houlden.  I learned some new techniques.  She suggested quilting the background before adding the flower.  This would keep the piece from wrinkling due to the differing amounts of quilting  She also introduced me to free-motion zig-zag quilting.  I wasn't sure I wanted to try it at first, but then I remembered that the idea of a class is to try new things.  I'm glad I did as I rather like the results of this technique.  I used it to attach the flower to the pre-quilted background.  After the quilt show, this will return home to grace one of my sofas.
 Next up, are the deer and the fox from the Forest Friends  pattern by Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts .  These had been sitting for a while waiting for binding. Done.
 After the quilt show they will be going to my friend's son.
This knitting project has almost been addictive.  I have a hard time putting it down for long.  Each row I knit moves the pattern along that it practically grows before my eyes.

I am wondering whether I darn in the ends before I block, or do I block first then darn in the ends.

Stitch'n Time is a weekly Monday post where I share my current needlework projects.  You are welcome to add a linky to your current needlework post and I'll be sure to drop by for a virtual visit.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

This story made me feel sad, angry and even afraid at times.  Tyler Johnson died when he shouldn't have.  He should have been safe in his own neighbourhood, but he wasn't.  Now his twin, Marvin, is left to figure out what happened to him and how to move forward.

With the unfailing support of his mother and his two closest friends, Ivy and G-mo, Marvin is able to search within himself and his community for answers.  Screaming back at him is the colour of his skin.  It is the first thing that a lot of people notice when they look at another person.

Did Tyler get caught up in a bad decision he made, or did some one look at him and decide that because of his skin colour he must be doing something bad.  Marvin experienced a lot of anguish as he broached these questions.  On top of that, he had to find the strength to face the media, his classmates and their opinions.

This is a powerful tale.  The first time I opened it and started reading, I closed it after a few pages.  I wasn't ready for the emotional impact I knew it was going to throw at me.  A few hours later, I cleared a block of time and dove in.  While I love the book and the main characters, I am sad that we still need these tales to be told.  I have faith, like Marvin, that we as a society can move forward and do what's right.  At present we need authors such a Jay Coles to present these stories and show us how to proceed.

This book would be a great subject for a class room discussion or to read as a family.

Cover image courtesy Hachette Book Group.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, 19 March 2018

Stitch'n Time - missing in action

So sorry to have been missing in action.  Last week was March Break here in Ontario.  That meant I was extra busy at work with a week full of kid activities.  As you can imagine, helping present activities for up to 150 kids a day can be stressful.  While I didn't have much time for stitching, I did do crafts with the kids each day.

Pup Tag made during our Paw Patrol event
I was not surprising that kids really don't listen carefully to instructions.  It was worse that so few kids were able to use scissors.  Often their parents would swoop in and take the project away from them and do the cutting to their standards.  What good is that, the child still can't use the scissors and the child finishes the project much faster that expected.  This caused problems with our timing.  arg.  Hence, my stress.

Lumpy and bumpy, clearly in need of blocking when done.
This week I am on staycation and re cooping.  I did some knitting today.  I am on to the next section of my project and have moved to larger needles and two strands of the orange yarn.    It's knitting nicely, but sure is going to require a lot of blocking.  Since I had to wind one skein into two equal balls of wool, I used my kitchen scale to weigh the first ball i was winding.  Once the ball reached half the weight of the skein, I started the second ball.  Much better than guessing as I did with the first two colours.

After one of my shorter days last week, I was able to drop into the quilt shop and get a few supplies for a pillow cover I'm making for a co-worker.  I had planned to purchase some plain off white fabric for background, but when I spied this piece with text all over, I knew it would be so much better.  Remember, I work in a bookstore...  Now I have no excuse for not starting on this project.

Stitch'n Time is a weekly post where I share my progress (or lack there of) with my needlework projects.  You are welcome to use Mister Linky to add a link to your current needlework post.